“It’s good to want things.”
This is what my coworker, another teacher, would tell her children when they were little. We’ve all been there, either driving the cart or riding in it when we encounter the magnetic pull of a newly found object we didn’t know existed two seconds ago but now that we have seen it, we MUST have it.
My coworker, a mother of triplets, in those five little words would acknowledge to her children that wanting is OK.
Then the item would remain on the shelf, unpurchased.
It’s good for adults to want things too…and not to purchase. A personal finance article in CNBC reported that people impulse buy an average of $5,400 a year. That’s $450 a month.
There’s a lot to be said for intentionality. I think once you purge so much, you get an appreciation for empty space that can keep you from filling it up. This doesn’t stop advertisers, however. Container companies are capitalizing on Marie Kondo’s tidying up method and I doubt the altruistic nature of their message. There is even a whole section in Etsy devoted to items that will “spark joy.” I agree with The Guardian writer Alexandra Spring who wrote “Marie Kondo, you know what would spark joy? Buying less crap.” The title was catchy enough but the message was really about the author’s journey into minimalism and then their guilt at passing their crap onto what will likely be the dump.
In my current circumstance, I am bound to a very tight budget. As for lesser, more reasonable wants, I rarely go out for coffee unless I’m meeting a friend and I bring my own container to fill, I don’t buy clothing unless an item I have is breaking down, and I could make improvements to our house but I’ve put that off until we make our big windows purchase in two years.
That being said, I still desire things.
My Wants Since Becoming A Minimalist
My wants now revolve around being a better me and minimizing that list has been no easy task.
The person I envision is edgy, witty, and well read. She is beautiful, strong, and wealthy. She is self sufficient but also a great partner and a doting mother of semi-free-range children. She speaks different languages, she gardens, paints, plays the ukulele, runs ultramarathons, climbs mountains, cooks wholesome meals, takes excellent photos, writes, is a great public speaker, and is generally and at all times in the running for teacher of the year.
She sounds absolutely neurotic. I probably wouldn’t even be her friend.
No one has the bandwidth to cover all this.
My Wants Versus Reality
As I am now, I have a stack and then some of papers to grade, I hate gardening and heights, I believe peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Kraft macaroni and cheese are perfectly acceptable staples for my children, and I am vegan but sometimes I think brownies don’t count.
I ran my first two full marathon since having kids (full marathons seven and eight respectively) but I only finished the last one because my husband, my ride, didn’t show up until mile 23 so I figured that I might as well finish…there’d be free beer at the end. Clearly, being an ultramarathon runner has been kicked off my list.
Year 38 was about not buying anything new for our new home, getting out of credit card debt, and becoming a vegan. I succeeded in all three and so I figure three is the magic number.
So, here I am nearing mile 39 in my life and along with working on my first blog, I have two other goals: fluency in Spanish and making better vegan meals. I’m hoping three remains my magic number.
On the subject of goals, there is one writer whom I admire. Ty Norwood wrote an article for Medium titled “Are We Setting Too Many Goals? A Look at Anti-Goal Lifestyle.” He writes:
With the proliferation of goal setting in our society as a whole and in our day to day lives individually, it’s quite easy to accept goal setting as the status quo framework for living life and to apply that framework to everything we do. Goal setting is effective at managing large groups of people, organizing large, complex institutions, and helping organize society in effective ways. Is it, however, the best and only way to organize our personal lives? Maybe not.
His writing about marathon running in particular, struck a chord. Norwood sought out to run the marathon to get into better shape. Just to clarify, the ultimate goal was not to run a marathon but to get into better shape. He did run the marathon but actually gained weight during the course of his training which was counter to his primary goal. Had he kept a singular goal (to lose weight) instead of combining it with another goal (running a marathon) he might have had success.
It should be noted that Norwood doesn’t regret running the marathon. The problem is that we are too focused on a perceived outcome and thus will force ourselves into a program that isn’t right for us. My previous failing with dieting is a testament to that. I was ready to pick up every single remedy people were throwing at me until I got so sick from the food choices that were supposed to be helping me.
Not to mention the waste.
I had been wanting to try being a vegan for a few years. I had taken up the lifestyle in college but six months in, I hit a wall when I couldn’t have chocolate around finals. The change I would make this time is that I would be eating vegan not to lose weight but rather to stop feeling so sick. I gave up meat right away and I took two months to eliminate dairy. Once all animal products were eliminated from my diet, I felt a lot less sick (read gassy) and anxious (read neurotic).
Once I felt like my “goal” was attained. I started focusing on my new goal of losing weight. I stopped drinking alcohol and soda at the start of January and I began keeping a food log. I’ve been going steady at half a pound per week.